Who work the most hours? Americans or the Irish. iStock

For years, the Irish have talked about how their sweat and tears helped to build America and, even now, those who left for the US may be putting in a lot more work than those they left behind, a new study has revealed.

According to a recent unpublished working paper, US citizens are putting in more hours during their work week than almost anywhere else in the western world, a full 19 percent more than the average person in Europe.

Compiled by economists Alexander Bick of Arizona State University, Bettina Bruggemann of McMaster University in Ontario, and Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln of Goethe University Frankfurt, the research shows that not only are Americans working at least an extra hour a week on average compared to Europeans--which doesn’t seem like much on a week-to-week-basis but can amount to 258 more hours a year--they are also more likely to retire later in life and don’t even take as many vacation days to make up for it.

Despite Europeans and Americans working the same amount of hours as early ago as the 1970s, this has drastically changed in the last four decades and US citizens work as much as 25 percent more hours than their European counterparts in 2016.

To break Europe down country by country, the Irish do close the gap slightly. The US put in just 15 percent more in terms of work hours but we don’t come close the likes of Switzerland, who most mirror the US work habits. On average, an Irish person puts in 22 hours per working week, the Swiss 25.1 hours, and Americans 26.1 hours.

The Italians are the least likely to be putting in long hours at the office with the average amount of hours spent per week in their place of work coming in at 18.4 hours. They are followed by France, Belgium, and Poland, who also average at below 20 hours per working week.

Just because Americans put in longer hours, however, does not necessarily mean they are coming out with better work productivity as a number of hours worked does not always equate to the amount of work completed.

The data contained within this particular research doesn’t take into account other factors which may show the reasons for the longer hours US citizens but does begin to speculate on why that may be so. The study is expected to be used in the future to pinpoint the reasons for worker productivity in the US and Europe and to help us understand why it is that US workers are spending more time in the place of work.

One suggestion put forward is that there is a greater incentive to work longer hours in the US because, despite the claims of certain US politicians in recent weeks, Americans do not pay the most taxes in the world. In reality, Americans pay significantly less than Europeans. As Europeans are expected to pay higher taxes the more they earn, it becomes less of an incentive to put in the extra hours and find yourself over a tax threshold. This tax burden would not have the same effect on a US citizen who decides to earn a bit more by putting in some overtime.

On the other hand, the increased taxes may come in more useful in later life as, according to the study, the more generous pensions available in parts of Europe encourage their citizens to take retirement early, a factor that would also decrease their country’s average working hours.

Another factor could possibly be the strength of labor unions in Europe compared to those in the US, as well as the stricter requirements for worker protection that see European industries sometimes obliged to implement limits on the amount of overtime that can be worked, or have stricter rules on the hours that can be worked without breaks.

You can read the full working paper here.

H/T: Irish Times

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